Rent control supporters paraded a coffin draped in a New Brunswick flag in downtown Moncton on Tuesday, part of a mock funeral to protest against the province’s decision not to renew the rent cap.
The mock funeral held by ACORN NB, a tenants’ union for low- and moderate-income people, had members as mourners dressed in black, marking the end of the temporary rent cap, which limited rent increases at 3.8 per cent.
It expired at midnight on Dec 31, 2022.
“The casket was basically to represent all the thousands of dollars” that tenants stand to lose, the sacrifices they will make, and the struggle to survive, said Peter Jongeneelen, co-chair of ACORN NB, in an interview with the NB Media Co-op.
Check out the interview here:
The New Brunswick government introduced Bill 25 on Nov. 24, 2022, to amend the Residential Tenancies Act, but the legislation did not extend rent control.
The rent cap was introduced last March in response to tenants’ complaints about rent increases reaching upwards of 50 per cent.
The government appears to have deleted a page about the rent cap from its website.
Jongeneelen said the decision not to renew the rent cap is a “direct insult to tenants who are struggling to survive” at a time when inflation is high and their incomes aren’t keeping apace.
The Higgs government had faced criticisms for giving leeway to landlords last year by granting “a 50 per cent reduction in the provincial property tax rate for non-owner-occupied residential properties and a 15 per cent reduction for non-residential properties and other residential properties.”
“To give them tax breaks, at 50 per cent and then say no, we can’t extend the rent cap, it makes no sense,” Jongeneelen said.
“You know, if they had come out when the rent cap was introduced and said, three years of tax breaks for the landlords and three years of rent control for the tenants, that would have been fair, it would have been balanced.”
Jongeneelen said tenants should not hesitate to complain and contact the Residential Tenancies Tribunal if they find themselves on the receiving end of a big rent increase.
CBC reported last December the province’s housing minister is mulling new legislation that could force landlords to seek permission if they wish to increase rent above certain thresholds.
However, Jongeneelen says that the provincial government has sided with the landlords and has failed to understand that unaffordable housing will result in people leaving the province and a surge in homelessness.
The province’s population reached 800,000 last year but uncontrolled rent increases could be an Achilles heel to sustain the growth.
“We’ve seen new immigrants to the country arrive in New Brunswick, live here [for] two, three years. And then what happens is, they can afford to live cheaper in PEI, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Newfoundland. So they’re moving there, and they’re leaving the province.”
Government spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane provided this statement to the Sackville community radio station CHMA:
“Please note the rent cap was first announced on March 22, 2022, and came into effect upon Royal Assent on June 10, 2022. The RTT marketing campaign aimed to inform tenants of their rights and where to go for help began in December 2021.
“Once a tenant applies to have a rent increase notice reviewed, the Residential Tenancies Tribunal will review the new rent amount to ensure it is within market value comparable to rental amounts in similar units in the same building and neighbourhood. This includes the size and condition of the unit, number of rooms and bathrooms, amenities included in the rent, age of the building, and recent renovations, if applicable. New rent amounts found to be outside of market value will be denied.
“Legislation came into effect on December 16, 2022, that allows new rent amounts that are significant and within market value to be phased in over 2 to 3 years. Also, tenants now have 60 days, instead of 30, after being served a notice of rent increase to apply for assistance from the Residential Tenancies Tribunal. Extending the application period for rental reviews to 60 days allows more time for tenants to seek help to ensure the increase was correctly served, meets all legislative requirements and is within market value. The Application for Assistance can be accessed online www.snb.ca/irent, by calling 1-888-762-8600 or by emailing email@example.com.”
Arun Budhathoki is a video-journalist with the NB Media Co-op. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada, administered by the Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (CACTUS).